I am not lost…

July 4, 2016

Fictional Celebrations

I was going to have a title that was so much more boring than that one, but thank goodness I came up with a better idea. DAY SAVED.

So! For my Stateside luminaries, happy Independence Day! (For the rest of the world, happy 4th of July anywho. Love you.) One of the favorite summer holidays, full of picnics and grills and fireworks and s’mores and oh yeah, something about our country and England. Yay?

We have a lot of holidays floating around for one reason or another (and even more that people have just made up for fun/an excuse to celebrate) and we expect them each year. So what do you do when you’ve created the world…and they don’t have the same reasons to celebrate as we do?

For example, in my (on-hiatus) serial Quest to Karantiri, they’re not in the United States. They live in the kingdom of Karantiri, which isn’t even on our planet. (I guess.) It’s a totally different world with a different societal setup. Ergo, I can’t very well have Christmas there, can I? Both the pagan and Christian holidays that led to its inception don’t exist in her world. Similarly, when I was writing fanfiction for Final Fantasy VII, the same problem applies. Sure, we see that there’s a chapel–but who are they worshipping? We can’t assume it’s Christian, or anything we know. So what do you do?

In Karantiri, I haven’t figured out exactly what I’m going to do for Christmas/a winter holiday. I know that on the Final Feast day, which falls somewhere around what we’d consider the winter solstice (autumn equinox? Oh lord, I can’t remember), there is a large celebration of life and harvest before the snows come and wipe everything out. (Maybe it is in the autumn. I just remember Celita talking about it being cold.)

For FFVII, I called it Salvatana (yeah, I’m good at naming things) and it was a celebration of the day that the Saviors of the Planet (ie:the player and their gang) kept the world from being exploded. It’s not THAT dissimilar from Christmas? Kinda? (Actually, it’s closer to Easter, but eh.) It served a similar purpose though, and allowed for stories to be built around it.

I remember reading something a while ago by an author I follow at least tangentially (if I have the right person in mind) who was saying you either need to entirely commit to one way or the other, particularly in science fiction: are you going to use Earth terminology, or are you making up your own? One way or another, you have to stay consistent. Are there rabbits on this planet to eat? Or are there an entirely different animal, perhaps still small, furred, and long-eared, but not a rabbit? Do they count the calendar in days? Months? Years? Are their seasons the same as ours, or are they more erratic? (Winter is coming/has come, you know.) It’s up to you, and it’s also up to you to make us believe it.

While I haven’t kept everything from the “real world” in Karantiri, there are some. They count days etc, but also tend to refer to years by how many of a season they’ve lived through. So for instance, when the prince of Karantiri fled, he was sixteen winters old. (Alternately, the Kalvarine elves measure in summers. That’s an interesting divide.) I also haven’t decided entirely what I’m doing about holidays. I reference several feast days, and there’s a traveling market/fair as well, so those probably coincide…but I’m not sure. It’s up to me.

Everyone has their own little way, and it’s part of why I love reading different stories in different worlds. Who knows what I might see next? What have y’all done if you’re writers? How have you treated holidays? And if you’re not a writer, which do you prefer in the books you read: invented time schemes, or once that stay closer to what we know here? Let me know in the comments; I’d love to hear from you.

And for all my Statesiders, party hard but stay safe. See you next week.

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3 Comments »

  1. To say “you have to choose between making it up or using Earth terminology” is misleading, Ultimately, we’re all pretty much all writing our stories in an Earth language. We may make up new words, but if we want other people to read our stories, they’re going to be written in a real language using 99%+ pre-existing words. One of my friends had a convention for their non-Earth setting that “English words are used for analogous things even when the analog doesn’t fit: ‘the small predatory pet animal is called a ‘cat’ but is not actually and Earth cat’. And so conlang words were reserved for when it mattered that the reader know that the fictional thing was different in critical ways from Earth things. It works pretty well, in my opinion.

    Comment by Rowyn (@LadyRowyn) — July 4, 2016 @ 6:06 pm | Reply

    • I’m mainly paraphrasing what I’ve heard another author say. I’m not sure I got her words right; it’s been a while since I heard it. But I understand where you’re coming from! And really, I can’t say I do any different–but even in your example, it’s still a choice of using the English word or the conlang one. 😉 It’s just a matter of how important it is to you that your readers realize how different things are.

      Comment by R — August 8, 2016 @ 9:10 pm | Reply

  2. Reblogged this on Storyteller in the Digital Age and commented:
    Love this little tidbit about writing holidays in fantasy/science fiction by my brilliant friend and colleague Rion. #amwriting

    Comment by amyoung0606 — July 6, 2016 @ 12:59 am | Reply


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